“Scientists using data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, have identified bright areas in craters near the moon’s south pole that are cold enough to have frost present on the surface. The new evidence comes from an analysis that combined surface temperatures with information about how much light is reflected off the moon’s surface.
“We found that the coldest places near the moon’s south pole are also the brightest places—brighter than we would expect from soil alone—and that might indicate the presence of surface frost,” said Elizabeth Fisher, the lead author of the study, published in Icarus. Fisher carried out the data analysis while doing research at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa after earning her undergraduate degree. She is now a graduate student at Brown University.
The icy deposits appear to be patchy and thin, and it’s possible that they are mixed in with the surface layer of soil, dust and small rocks called the regolith. The researchers say they are not seeing expanses of ice similar to a frozen pond or skating rink. Instead, they are seeing signs of surface frost. The frost was found in cold traps close to the moon’s south pole. Cold ...